Is this India or England? Shri Swaminarayan Mandir would have anyone believe they’ve travelled halfway across the world in the blink of an eye thanks to its distinct architecture. The pristine white Hindu temple was built using entirely traditional methods and materials and up until 2000 it held the Guinness World Record of biggest Hindu temple outside India.
The construction posed two major challenges: the temple had to be built in accordance with the steel-free Vastu Shastras, India’s ancient architectural texts, all while respecting Britain’s strict building code in order to withstand the occasionally harsh weather. 3,000 tons of Bulgarian limestone and 1,200 tons of Italian Carrara marble were shipped to India to be carved and coded by professionals, returning to North London two years later as one gigantic, 26,300 pieces 3D jigsaw puzzle.
The temple is dedicated to reverence, adoration and gratitude and consists of a traditional Hindu mandir (which acts as the focal point of the complex and place of worship), the ‘Understanding Hinduism’ permanent exhibition and the richly-carved Gujarati Haveli, a cultural and multi-functional center carved from Burmese teak wood.
Shri Swaminarayan Mandir is located in the north London Borough of Brent. It is accessible by public transit via Stonebridge Park (Tube: Bakerloo line and Overground: Watford DC Line) and Neasden, although it is a bit of a walk to get there from the station. It is serviced by bus routes 224, 206, 112611, 232 and 18. Alternatively, it is accessible by car via M1 and M4 ((exit at Junction 1) or M40 (exit at Hanger Lane Gyratory).